Ontario drinking water not affected by Lake Erie toxins: ministry
Published Sunday, August 3, 2014 5:06PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, August 3, 2014 9:55PM EDT
The blue-green algae bloom that has contaminated the Ohio side of Lake Erie is not affecting Ontario’s drinking water, the province’s Ministry of the Environment said Sunday.
“At this time, it has not moved into Ontario waters and is not impacting municipal drinking water intakes in the lake,” a ministry spokesperson said in a statement.
The statement added that treatment plants in Chatham-Kent and Elgin regularly test for microcystin, a type of toxin that can cause liver and kidney damage. “None have been detected,” the ministry said.
In Ohio, 400,000 people are being advised not to drink tap water for the second day in a row. There are also warnings not to let children and pets play or bathe in the water.
Water readings there are showing a toxic level of microcystin.
“There are several species and types of toxins out there, but in the drinking water system, we typically monitor microcystin-LR which is one of the most toxic among all the toxins,” said Raj Bejankiwar, a physical scientist from the International Joint Commission. “It can impact the nervous system of human beings, the liver and the skin.”
It is believed that the high level of toxin is caused by an increase in algae feeding off of lake pollution such as sewage and farm fertilizer runoff. Officials in Ohio said boiling the water is not an option because that can intensify the toxin’s concentration.
Bejankiwar said the way to combat these blooms is to stop feeding the algae the phosphorous it needs to grow. He warned that Toledo isn’t the only area that could be hit with a dangerous algae bloom, but said its geography did make it a likely target.
“It could happen to any community, specifically in the western basin, both on the Canadian side of the shoreline, and as well on the U.S. side,” he said. “But Toledo is most likely ground zero because the Maumee River opens there.”
The Ministry of the Environment said Ontario has a “rapid response” system in place to identify toxic algae. It also said that, in the event of blue-green algae-related health concerns, the ministry will work with local health authorities.
“Ontario’s drinking water is among the best protected and tested in North America,” said the statement.
With files from the Associated Press.